Wednesday, August 31, 2005

McWane Guilty Again

Union Foundry, a division of the notorious McWane Industries, has agreed to plead guilty and pay a $4.25 million fine for an environmental crime and safety violation that led to the death of an employee.
In court papers unsealed yesterday in Federal District Court in Birmingham, Union Foundry, a McWane plant in Anniston, Ala., admitted that it had willfully violated federal safety rules, resulting in the death of Reginald Elston, a 27-year-old worker who was crushed in a conveyor belt. There was no required safety guard on the conveyor belt, even though an employee at a McWane foundry in Texas had been crushed to death in another unguarded conveyor belt less than two months earlier.

Union Foundry also admitted that it had illegally handled dust contaminated with lead and cadmium, two substances the federal government has linked to lung cancer.

Causing the death of a worker by willfully violating safety rules is a misdemeanor. Illegally disposing of contaminated dust is a felony. In deciding to plead guilty, McWane agreed to pay a $3.5 million criminal fine. It also agreed to submit a proposal to the United States attorney in Birmingham to spend an additional$750,000 on a community service project in Alabama that either improves workplace safety or protects the environment. No individuals were charged. The plea agreement requires approval by a federal judge.
McWane's criminal and deadly treatment of its workers was the subject of a 2003 Pulitzer Prize winning NY Times/Frontline series. . Union Foundry will pay $3.5 million in criminal fines and $750,000 for federal agencies to spend on services to benefit the Anniston Alabama community.

Last March, Tyler Pipe, another subsidiary of McWane pleaded guilty to "environmental crimes," fined $4.5 million, placed on probation for five years and required to spend an estimated $12 million on plant upgrades. And in June, a federal jury found industrial pipe maker McWane Inc. and two of its executives guilty of environmental crimes, including conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act. Another McWane executive, the company's vice president for environmental affairs, was found guity of making false statements to the Environmental Protection Agency.

And moving from the tragic to the ridiculous, news of the guilty plea comes just a week after Union Foundry announced that in late June its employees "have surpassed 1,000,000 work hours with no lost time due to injury or illness" Their press release also announced that:
Union Foundry employees are next working towards achieving success in the OSHA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Star Program, which promotes effective employee driven worksite-based safety and health. The VPP designation is OSHA's official recognition of the outstanding efforts of the employer and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health.
If they gain VPP status, they will be joining asbestos-killer W.R. Grace which was granted VPP "Star" status, in the official VPP rogues' gallary.

And in case you were curious,
Founded in 1921, McWane, Inc. is a family-owned business based in Birmingham, Alabama with thirteen iron foundries and related businesses across the United States, Canada and Australia. McWane's divisions focus on the safe, environmentally friendly manufacturing of ductile iron pipe, fittings, hydrants, valves, propane tanks and fire extinguishers.

With fine, upstanding corporate citizens like these, who needs corporate outlaws? After all, it's been almost 8 months since McWane has killed anyone.

Related Stories

Immigrant Workers Demand Health Screening From Company That Poisoned Them

Last year I wrote about an article in the East Bay Express about the horrendous working conditions of immigrant workers in a facility operated by AXT, Inc, a Fremont, CA, semiconductor company that exposed its employees to airborne arsenic at levels four times the legal limit in 2000. Although CalOSHA issued "Willful" citations and penalties of $313,000 against the company in 2000, the company was cited and fined three times, including another set of "Willful" citations issued in June 2003. Finally, the company closed up shop in Fremont and moved to China.

But the workers that AXT poisoned are still there, still getting sick and still trying to do something about it. They're calling on the company to pay for long-term health screenings and monitoring for gallium arsenic exposures that should never have occurred:
A group of immigrant workers called on the Alameda County District Attorney Wednesday to hold their former employer, Fremont-based semiconductor manufacturer AXT Inc., responsible for knowingly exposing them to toxic chemicals.

The workers, most of them Chinese immigrants who speak little or no English, say they were not informed about workplace hazards and face a growing fear about their health. They say AXT exposed 500 workers to unhealthy levels of gallium arsenic, a carcinogen and reproductive toxin, and want the company to pay for long-term health monitoring.

Tuesday more than two dozen former workers delivered a box of nearly 1,100 postcards calling for the district attorney to take action
Neither the District Attorney's office, nor AXT officials had any comments on the request:
In previous statements, AXT has said it remains "deeply concerned" about the health of current and former workers and that it keeps a "strong commitment to maintaining a safe and healthful work environment" for all employees.

But the employees tell a different story. Until 2003, workers at AXT's Fremont semiconductor substrate plant spent their days polishing and trimming arsenic-based wafers that would end up in voice and high-speed wireless devices, such as cell phones.

Employees described the work as gritty, with vaporized arsenic constantly in the air and arsenic-laced dust coating surfaces. Yet a survey of 209 former employees done this spring by APEN and other community health groups found 7 percent were told by management that the chemicals they were handling could cause cancer or birth defects.

Almost 90 percent said they received no training in how to minimize exposure.

Schwarzenegger's Secret Motives

Mick Arran thinks that there may be more to California's new heat regulation than Governor Schwarzenegger's sudden concern for the health of California's farmworkers:
But it seems I was giving Gov Schwartzenegger too much credit (a mistake I still unaccountably make with Republicans). It isn’t the health and welfare of migrant workers that concerns him, it’s the corporate health of California’s agribusiness industry. Working conditions are so bad now and pay scales so low that even the poorest of the poor are deciding it isn’t worth it.

New Orleans: As If The Water Wasn't Bad Enough...

The worlds biggest Supefund site?
The water that swept through New Orleans' streets in the wake of Hurricane Katrina carried more than continued misery for the storm's victims.

It also brought along a potentially toxic soup of pollution - sewage, chemicals and perhaps human bodies.


New Orleans lies between the Mississippi River, nearly a half-mile wide, and Lake Pontchartrain, which is about half the size of Rhode Island.

The lake has long been a dumping ground for local sewer plants and dairy producers, making it off-limits to swimmers until a cleanup effort began at the end of the 1990s.

New Orleans' sewer system is old and in poor condition, Pine said. During Katrina's onslaught, trees that were ripped out of the ground pulled loose underground pipes, local officials told WWL-TV in New Orleans. The uprooting caused breaks in the sewer and natural gas lines, which then leaked.

The city's port is a major hub for the transportation of hazardous cargo, Pine said, so the waters could be contaminated by that, too.

Gasoline, diesel fuel and oil leaking from underground storage tanks at service stations may also become a problem, federal officials have said.

And then there are the storm's uncounted victims. As rescuers work to save survivors from their rooftops, "we're not even dealing with dead bodies," Mayor C. Ray Nagin said. "They're just pushing them on the side."

Hurricane Warning

Every time there's a hurricane, workers die, usually from electrocutions or falling tree branches. The recovery of the Gulf Coast could take months or years, which means that organic material will rot, creating hdyrogen sulfide, methane and oxygen depletion, and in enclosed areas, confined space hazards.

Just because we're dealing with a disaster doesn't mean that OSHA standards, safe working procedures and protective equipment should be overlooked.

OSHA has an alert and a number of fact sheets containing information on avoiding hazards and safely cleaning up after a hurricane.

Check it out if you're working on recovery or know anyone who is.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Public Employees: Live Like Slaves, Die Like Dogs (Part 5)

I spend a fair amount of time in this blog ranting about how this country treats public employees as second class citizens -- barely even human. In return for the hard, unpleasant and dangerous work they do, they aren't paid terribly much, don't have the collective bargaining rights in half the states that private sector employees enjoy, and are under constant attack for those benefits they've managed to win by organizing wherever they can.

Public employees, over a third of whom are organized, also provide an example of what America could look like (in terms of pensions, health care benefits and political power) if private sector employers had the same generally passive acceptance of unions that public employers display. In fact, their very organizing success has made public employees and their unions a bigger target for the right wing which fears the example that a well organized sector of the economy makes on the less organized private sector. Their campaigns have focused on reducing the political power of public employees (such as the current "Payroll Protection" campaign in California) and making private sector workers jealous of the benefits that public sector workers haven't yet lost.

But I digress.

What I'm really writing about here is a life and death issue for public employees: the fact that public sector workers in over half the states still are not covered by OSHA -- in other words, they have not legal right to a safe workplace. And it's not just conservative red states, public employees in what is arguably one of the most liberal states in the country -- Massachusetts -- do not have OSHA coverage, often with deadly results:
On the evening of Aug. 3, 2004, Roger LeBlanc was one of nine Massport workers dispatched to restore power to the Hilton Hotel at Logan International Airport. Before beginning repairs, the electricians made sure they de-energized the hotel's switch station. After checking the five cabinets on the right side of the switch station, they turned on the electricity, confident that the five cabinets on the left side were powered separately.

They were wrong. When LeBlanc, 39, touched the top of one of the cabinets on the left, thousands of volts shot through him, and he died hours later. His death has spurred labor unions and workplace safety advocates to unite behind legislation that would strengthen protections for the 150,000 city and state workers in Massachusetts.

City and state workers in Massachusetts are not covered by safety procedures mandated by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, even though private employers have been bound by them since 1970. According to an investigation by the state's Division of Occupational Safety, LeBlanc's death would have been prevented if the Massachusetts Port Authority electricians had followed OSHA rules.
And this statement really pisses me off after 16 years running AFSCME's health and safety program where I almost never made any public statement without mentioning the fact that public employees were not covered by OSHA:

Representative Michael J. Rodrigues, who co-chairs the Legislature's Labor and Workforce Development Committee and has served on the panel for eight years, said he was amazed to learn during a hearing on the bill that OSHA did not apply to public employees.

''I certainly feel that all state employees should enjoy the same protections for health and safety as any private employee in the Commonwealth," the Westport Democrat said last week.

Well, I'm delighted that he's concerned and wants to do something about it, but come on! He never knew? This is something that everyone needs to know, especially state legislators.

Without thinking, most people still view public employees as office workers whose main worries focus on paper cuts, and possibly carpal tunnel syndrome. But, of course, they're wrong:
The dangers that police officers and firefighters face are well-known, but other public employees also contend with workplace hazards. Water and sewer workers have to crawl in confined spaces and breathe contaminated air; airport workers are at risk of hearing loss; and road and bridge crews are threatened by hazardous fumes and dangerous heights. Between 1991 and 2003, at least 94 public employees died on the job, according to statistics compiled by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health.

Those figures are comparable to the fatality rate in the private sector. In 2000, a US Department of Labor analysis of workplace injury and death data found that "the public sector poses the same or even greater overall risk of workplace injury and illness as the private sector."
In fact, in its report released last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nationwide, 526 government workers lost their lives on the job in 2004.

Although bills requiring public employee coverage nationwide are introduced into Congress every year, the last significant effort was made in the early 1990's when public employee coverage formed part of labor-sponsored OSHA Reform legislation. The interesting thing was that, although the bill never came close to passage, there was considerable support even among Republicans for correcting this clear injustice.

The public employer organizations -- the League of Cities, Conference of Mayors, National Association of Counties -- opposed OSHA coverage. The states and cities were already doing a fine job protecting their public servants employees, thank you very much, and we don't need no stinkin' laws and regulations.

And we're still seeing the same thing in Massachusetts:
Romney spokeswoman Julie Teer said the administration has concluded that applying OSHA rules to public workers is up to the Legislature, but that the administration has taken other steps to strengthen workplace protections, such as designating a safety representative for each agency. Teer said the administration ''is committed to ensuring a safe workplace for all state employees."

Robert J. Prezioso, who has served as commissioner of the Division of Occupational Safety since former governor William F. Weld's administration, praised Romney's efforts and said his agency provides some safety advice to state agencies, as well as cities and towns.

''As the state's worker health and safety agency, we go out and help agencies protect workers every day, even though we currently don't have a mandate to do so," Prezioso said. He declined to comment on the legislation, or whether his agency would be equipped to enforce it.

But a leading workplace safety expert casts doubt on the efficacy of the state's efforts. Chuck Levenstein, emeritus professor of work environment at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and an adjunct professor of occupational health at Tufts University Medical School, testified on Beacon Hill last spring that, "there is no consistent set of policies across agencies that would provide adequate protection for state workers."

"Serious hazards to public employee could be prevented by extending OSHA coverage to them," Levenstein testified. "The cost of such fairness will be small compared with the great benefits derived from protecting the health and safety of the workers who serve the public."
So what's it going to take?
Unfortunately, it's not until enough momentum is generated around a death that there is action. It shouldn't have taken LeBlanc's death," said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, who heads the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health. "It's always called 'tragic' or 'shocking.' In most cases, it's not shocking at all. It's that basic procedures were not put in place."
No, it shouldn't take LeBlanc's death, nor the hundreds of other preventable deaths and thousands of preventable injuries. But they happen, every day, year after year and our state legislators and governors in 24 states still see no reason to do anything about it.

A couple of years ago, I outlined my idea for a public employee coverage campaign in a letter to former Senator Bob Graham (FL) Florida Senator Bob Graham after one of his famous "workdays" when he does the job of an "average" worker. That time, he spent the day in a public workplace. I suggested that on his next workday, he mount a campaign for public employee OSHA coverage and kick it off by

going down in a 12 foot deep trench that is not shored or sloped. Climb down into a manhole or other confined space that has not been monitored for hazardous chemicals or oxygen deficiency. Go work on a locked, understaffed, overcrowded mental health ward or maybe in a high security prison. Go drive around in some old city vehicles with defective brakes. Maybe you could bring a few Florida state legislators and Governor Bush with you.

Assuming you live through the experience and that you think that this nation's public employees don't deserve to work and die under such conditions, please consider spending whatever time you have left in the public eye fighting for OSHA protections for public employees. They do the jobs that this country demand to make life safe and enjoyable. Safe workplaces are the least they deserve.
We should be sending the same letter challenging every state legislator in every state that doesn't provide OSHA coverage to public employees.

Related Articles

The Worst Job: OSHA Alliances and the Washington Post

There must be no Purgatory more stressful than writing a column called "The Regulators" during the Bush administration. Due to the low level of regulatory activity, one is forced to write about creatures like OSHA Alliances, where
The Bush administration has stressed cooperation over confrontation and has tried to help companies comply with rules rather than play "gotcha" after an infringement.
In fact, it's gotten so bad, that Washington Post columnist Cindy Skrzicki is forced to interview me (probably because it's my birthday):
Critics say the efforts replace rulemaking and divert resources from enforcement.

"There is no substance to alliances. They have taken the place of standards and making rules," Jordan Barab , former OSHA special assistant who runs a blog on OSHA-related health and safety issues.
Unfortunately, those 16 words are the only part of the entire article that's critical of OSHA's Alliances. So, allow me to expand a bit here:
  1. There's nothing wrong with OSHA helping out regulated industries with technical assistance or even websites. But it's clear from OSHA's action and rhetoric, that these Alliances and other voluntary activities have become the essence of what they want OSHA to be: an advisory, rather than a regulatory body. Voluntary activities have been part of OSHA since the early 1980's, but if you take a look at current OSHA press releases, they've now become most of what the agency chooses to boast about (as opposed to rising fatality rates).

  2. There's nothing wrong with cooperative activities, but it is clear that Alliances have taken the place of rulemaking: witness the number of ergonomics-related alliances, or the reactive chemicals alliance, created as a response to the US Chemical Safety Board's request to modify the Process Safety Management Standard.

  3. It's not just "critics" that say that OSHA's voluntary activities (not just alliances, but also partnerships and Voluntary Protection Program), it's the US. Government Accountability Office that says that the voluntary activities are extremely resource intensive and if they exapnad at the rate that OSHA has planned, cannot help but cut into the enforcement budget.

  4. OSHA's Alliances almost never include labor unions, even in highly unionized industries, guaranteeing that they will miss out on the best and most knowledgeable resource: their workers.

  5. Finally, as I asked the other day, is it really a good use of OSHA's resources to be making alliances with itself?

More later. Gotta run.


OSHA Alliances: Meaningless Media or Bureaucratic Incest?, March 8, 2004

Monday, August 29, 2005

Workplace Deaths Up in '04

5,703 workers died from work-related injuries last year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2004 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI). This was an increase of 2% over 2003 and the rate also rose from 4.0 per 100,000 workers in 2002 and 2003 to 4.1 last year. This was the second year in a row that the number of workers killed on the job went up, but it was the first increase in the fatality rate since 1994. Fatalities among Hispanic workers also rose sharply after declining in 2002 and 2003.

The report was released last week and I almost missed it. Usually, I'm alerted by an OSHA press release and accompanying fanfare, but it seems OSHA only issues press releases about national workplace fatality statistics when fatalities go down, not up. Last year, for example, then Assistant Secretary of Labor John Henshaw boasted that
American workers remain safer than they were just a few years ago. The BLS data released today show that the fatal injury rate held steady at 4.0 per 100,000 workers - identical to 2002 and the lowest rate recorded since the fatality census began in 1992.

We are also encouraged by our continued progress in reducing fatalities among Hispanic workers. Fatalities among Hispanic workers dropped notably for the second straight year, after several years of increases. Fatalities among foreign-born Hispanics also dropped for the first time ever. There were fewer deaths from falls and harmful environments while deaths as a result of assaults and violent acts rose by 61.
This year, it's more like the Sounds of Silence...and for good reason.

Here are some of the key findings for 2004:
  • Fatal work injuries among Hispanic workers were up 11 percent in 2004 after declining the previous two years.
    The number of fatal work injuries involving Hispanic or Latino workers was sharply higher in 2004 after declining for the two previous years. The number of fatally injured Hispanic or Latino workers rose from 794 in 2003 to 883 in 2004, an increase of 11 percent. The rate of fatal work injuries among Hispanic or Latino workers rose from 4.5 per 100,000 workers in 2003 to 4.9 per 100,000 in 2004. Although homicides to Hispanic or Latino workers were down 27 percent from 2003, increases in the number of fatal work injuries resulting from falls (up 27 percent), transportation incidents (up 27 percent), and contact with objects or equipment (up 14 percent) led to the higher number of fatal work injuries among this population.
  • Workplace homicides were down sharply in 2004 to the lowest level ever recorded by the fatality census.
    The 551 workplace homicides in 2004 represented a 13 percent decline from 2003 and was the lowest annual total yet recorded by the fatality census. Overall, workplace homicides are down 49 percent from the high of 1,080 workplace homicides recorded in 1994
  • Fatal work injuries resulting from being struck by an object rose 12 percent in 2004, and overtook workplace homicide as the third most frequent type of fatal event.

  • Fatal falls increased by 17 percent to a new series high, led by increases in the number of fatal falls from ladders and from roofs.
    The increase in fatal falls was led by a 39 percent increase in the number of workers who were fatally injured after a fall from a roof (from 128 fatalities in 2003 to 178 in 2004) and a 17 percent increase in the number of fatal falls from ladders (from 114 fatalities in 2003 to 133 in 2004). The totals for falls from roofs and for falls from ladders represented new series highs for these events.About 88 percent of the fatal falls from roofs involved construction workers, compared with about 54 percent for fatal falls overall.
  • The number of fatal work injuries in the construction sector rose 8 percent in 2004, but because of employment increases in this sector, the fatality rate for construction was not significantly higher than the rate reported in 2003.
    Construction and extraction occupations accounted for the second highest number of fatal work injuries among major occupational groups in 2004 (1,129 fatalities, up from 1,038 in 2003). Fatal work injuries among construction trade workers rose from 788 in 2003 to 870 in 2004 and accounted for most of the increase for this occupational group. The 94 fatal work injuries involving roofers was a sharp increase from the 55 fatal work injuries recorded in 2003 and accounted for nearly half of the increase among construction trade workers.


    The construction industry sector recorded 1,224 fatal work injuries, the most of any industry sector, an increase of 8 percent over the number reported in 2003. The increase was led by a jump in fatalities among specialty trade contractors from 629 in 2003 to 752 in 2004.
  • Twenty-seven states reported higher numbers of fatalities in 2004 than in 2003.
    Of those States reporting 25 or more fatal work injuries in 2004, six States reported increases of at least 20 percent (Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, and New Mexico), while two States reported declines of 20 percent (Arkansas and Oregon).
In addition, electorcutions were up. Highway incidents were up slightly, although nonhighway incidents ( on farms or industrial premises dropped). But more workers died after being struct by vehicles or mobile equipment last year than in 2003.

Finally, just to put this in a bit of perspective:

Congressional Budget Office Says Asbestos Comp Fund May Not Cover Claims

The Congressional Budget Office released a report last week revealing that the $140 billion asbestos compensation fund (S. 852), currently awaiting a vote on the Senate floor, may not be adequately funded.

According to the CBO, the federal government would have to borrow around $8 billion to stay afloat during the first ten years of its existence.
The interest cost of this borrowing would add significantly to the long-term costs faced by the fund and contributes to the possibility that the fund might become insolvent. Under the provisions of section 405, the fund would have to stop accepting new claims (a process known as “sunset”) if its current and future resources become inadequate to fulfillall existing and anticipated obligations, including its debt obligations.
The CBO also says that it is impossible to know whether or not the $140 million will be sufficient over the next fifty years. Maybe yes, maybe no:
CBO expects that the value of valid claims likely to be submitted to the fund over the next 50 years could be between $120 billion and $150 billion, not including possible financing (debt-service) costs and administrative expenses. The maximum actual revenues collected under the bill would be around $140 billion, but could be significantly less. Consequently, the fund may have sufficient resources to pay all asbestos claims over the next 50 years, but depending on claim rates, borrowing, and other factors, its resources may be insufficient to pay all such claims.

A more precise forecast of the fund’s performance over the next five decades is not possible because there is little basis for predicting the volume of claims, the number that would be approved, or the pace of such approvals.
Epidemiological studies of the incidence of future asbestos-related disease and the claims approval experience of private trust funds set up by bankrupt firms can be used to indicate the range of experience of the federal asbestos trust fund might face, but those sources cannot reliably indicate the financial status of the fund over such a long time period.
Dow Jones news service says that both sides will find something to complain about:
Unions opposed to the bill will point to the near-term shortfalls to argue that the trust isn't adequately funded. On the other hand, business groups will note the uncertainty of the trust's long-term viability to argue that payments to victims should be less generous and criteria for making claims should be more strict. Specter and Leahy countered that "even in the range of uncertainty, ... our legislation - with $140 billion - is reasonable and realistically calculated to cover the claims."
That the verdict of the CBO is not completely clear is evident from the headlines over the past couple of days.

US Asbestos Fund could Fall Short - Budget Office , Planet Ark, NY

Analysis Says Asbestos Plan Might Work, Washington Post

US Budget Office Says Federal Asbestos Fund Could Be Insufficent ... Insurance Journal
Related Articles

Sunday, August 28, 2005

This One Might Require A Bit Closer Look

There seems to be more here than a simple unavoidable accident.
NT man dies in industrial accident at Frontier Fibres
Eric O’Connor
Sunday, August 14, 2005

North Tonawanda, NY -- An accident at a North Tonawanda business Friday night has left an employee dead.

Lee Wilson, 42, 18 Ransom St., North Tonawanda, was found dead around 9 p.m. by co-workers at Frontier Fibres after he was caught in a cardboard compressor. The machine was shut off as soon as his body was discovered among boxes.

Frontier Fibres was closed for the weekend. An employee who answered the phone Saturday said a manager will be available for comment Monday.

There were four other employees working at the time of Wilson’s death, according to North Tonawanda police. An investigation is ongoing, but all indications point to the death being accidental, police said.

Frontier Fibers Inc. at 22 Mechanic St. is a locally owned and operated waste paper and non-ferrous metal recycling facility that’s been in operation for more than 45 years, according to its Web site.

It specializes in recycling shredded or bailed waste paper.

Gary Snyder, Wilson’s backdoor neighbor at 18 Ransom St., said Wilson would sometimes complain of dangerous equipment at the factory. Snyder and his wife moved into the house in December but already were close friends with Wilson.

But that's not all. The Tonawanda News also provides space for readers' comments. Most are condolences. But check this one out:

Debbie (8/15/2005)

To the Wilson family. Please dont allow this to go without investigation. Lee told Dan how dangerous this place was to work at. Where were the safety guides? Why didn't they supply the employees with a harness to tie off on so that something like this could never have happened. Where were the safety checks before this machine ran? Why when someone was up on the top of the machine was it not locked out? Doesn't anyone watch this machine when it is running? Perhaps the owners of this place better start giving some answers. We send our deepest sympathy to all of you. Lee he was not only our tenant but our FRIEND for many years.

Weekly Toll

Another couple of weeks of senseless workplace deaths. It's funny, but after doing these for a while, you note patterns from time to time. This week, there seem to be quite a few (seven) double fatalities, also eight public employees -- JB

Accident kills worker in Colonial Heights

Richmond, VA -- A Colonial Heights city employee died yesterday at VCU Medical Center after being struck in the head by a metal hose coupling while trying to unstop a clogged drain.

Mills D. Boyette, 60, who had worked seven years as a utility technician for the city's utilities department, was one of four employees trying to unclog a drain at a public restroom in White Bank Park about 1:40 p.m. Friday, Fire Chief A.G. Moore said.

A high-pressure hose burst, and a coupling struck Boyette in the back of the head. Boyette was initially taken to Southside Regional Medical Center in Petersburg and was later transferred via helicopter to VCU Medical Center, Moore said.

Second KDOT Employee Killed Sparks Concerns

Monday’s fatal accident in Lyon County was the second KDOT worker killed along Kansas highways in the last two months.

Cars on Kansas highways often travel at speeds in excess of 70-miles-per-hour, even in construction zones, and if the driver is distracted, there's little margin for error.

24-year-old Shawn McDonald worked with this crew. In June, Shawn McDonald lost his life in when he was struck by a driver who'd lost control on Highway 75. Yesterday 46 year old Richard Cunningham of Emporia was killed when a KDOT dump truck and a semi-trailer hauling rock collided.

Construction worker dies after fall from house

A construction worker fell to his death on the morning of Aug. 18 while working in Vernondale Village, a new housing community being built on post by private developer Clark Pinnacle.

Antelmo Francisco Lira, 38, fell from a 2-foot-wide opening on the second floor and was found unconscious on the first floor.

Lira was an employee of a Clark Pinnacle sub-contractor. The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division and representatives from the Occupational and Health Safety Administration conducted separate investigations of Lira’s fall.

Employee killed in explosion at Michigan racetrack

BUTLER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) -- A fuel building exploded and burned at a stock car race track in southern Michigan, killing one employee and injuring two others, the Branch County Sheriff's Department says.

The explosion happened about 5 p.m. Saturday at Butler Motor Speedway in Butler Township, near Coldwater and about 30 miles south of Battle Creek, the department said. It said about 1,000 people were temporarily evacuated from the area.

It said two people received minor injuries but Rudy Corsini, 49, of Michigan Center was critically injured. He was taken to Coldwater Hospital, then flown by helicopter to the burns unit at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, where he died Sunday.

Courthouse worker falls, dies

TAMPA, FL - A 28-year-old man removing asbestos from the old Hillsborough County courthouse in downtown Tampa fell from the third floor Thursday morning, landing on his head and later dying at Tampa General Hospital.

Roberto Velazco Lopez, a worker for Cross Environmental Services, was working in the third-floor ceiling at 9:23 a.m. when he stepped on an area that did not support his weight, said Tampa Police spokesman Joe Durkin.

Lopez, of Tampa, fell through the ceiling to the floor 18 feet below.

Delivery driver dies of injuries after rollover

TECOPA, NV - A well liked Schwan's delivery truck driver died from injuries sustained outside of Tecopa on Tuesday when he lost control of his vehicle and it rolled several times, ejecting 24-year-old Anthony 'Tony' Schmitz, destroying the truck and scattering frozen food all over the roadway.

Schmitz had been through Tecopa Hot Springs and Shoshone and was heading toward Tecopa Heights on California Highway 127 at about 2:45 when he tried to make the left hand turn onto Tecopa Hot Springs Road at a high rate of speed. "We don't know exactly how fast he was going," said California Highway Patrol Officer Tim Huldermann, who responded to the scene, "but speed was definitely a factor."

Schmitz lost control of the vehicle when the heavy load shifted and the truck rolled at least twice, breaking into pieces.

Owner, 42, dies in robbery at doughnut shop

Houston, TX -- A 42-year-old Houston man was stabbed and beaten to death early Saturday during a robbery of the Baytown doughnut shop he owned, Baytown police reported.

At about 4:40 a.m., Bonrith In, owner of Dina's Donuts in the 3700 block of West Baker, complied with the robber's demands and gave him an unknown amount of money, police said.

When the robber demanded more, the pair struggled, and In was stabbed multiple times and suffered several blows to the head, police said. He died at the scene. The attacker remains at large.

Marathon County worker killed when dump truck hit by train

SPENCER, Wis. - A Marathon County worker was killed Tuesday when a freight train collided with the small dump truck he was backing across the railroad tracks, authorities said. Michael Mathwich, 55, of Marathon, who worked for the county Highway Department, was hauling a load of rocks at the time of the crash along Hoff Road south of Spencer, the sheriff's department said.

NT man dies in industrial accident at Frontier Fibres

North Tonawanda, NY -- An accident at a North Tonawanda business Friday night has left an employee dead.

Lee Wilson, 42, 18 Ransom St., North Tonawanda, was found dead around 9 p.m. by co-workers at Frontier Fibres after he was caught in a cardboard compressor. The machine was shut off as soon as his body was discovered among boxes.

Body of worker found day after trench cave-in

The body of a Blount County construction worker, buried Tuesday afternoon when a trench caved in on him in Clay, was found Wednesday morning.

Jacky Blackwood, 21, of the Nectar community had worked for a Leeds construction company about three weeks. He was in a ditch making connections to a sewer main about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday when the walls collapsed.

Center Point Battalion Fire Chief Robert VanHooser said the trench was on a hillside. The uphill side of the trench collapsed, which caused the other side to collapse.

He said there was nothing to indicate the walls of the trench had been shored up.

"Shoring is required on ditches deeper than 5 feet," said Robert Sanchez, area director of the Birmingham office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The trench was 6 feet wide and at least 16 feet deep. Efforts to reach the owner of O'cet Inc. were unsuccessful Wednesday. (More here)

Mobile man dies in three-story fall

Mobile, AL- A 63-year-old man was killed Tuesday when he fell three stories while installing an air-conditioning unit at a hotel under construction near the Eastern Shore Centre. Lonnie Poole of Mobile was standing in a window or doorway, guiding a crane operator who was lifting the unit into a Holiday Inn Express near the Interstate 10 Malbis exit around 11 a.m. Tuesday, according to J. David Greene, a Mobile attorney who said his law firm was investigating the incident.

Teens Allegedly Kill Delivery Man For Money To Party

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Four teenagers are accused of killing a Chinese food delivery driver for money to party with. The suspects were in juvenile court Tuesday.

Kansas City, MO -- Benjamin McReynolds, Brandon McReynolds, Brandon Johnson and Cortez Ennis are charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy and aggravated battery. They range in age from 14 to 17. The youngest was allegedly found with bloody money in his pockets.

Zhihai Cui, 42, worked for the New Town China Buffet. He was found stabbed to death Friday night. He was new to the area and had no family in town.

Security Guard Fatally Shot at Nightclub Door

A nightclub security guard was killed late Friday after an altercation with a group of men who tried to enter the club without identification, the Sheriff's Department said.

Lloyd Gadlin, 39, of Los Angeles was working the door at Jeftys Nightclub in the 12800 block of Avalon Boulevard when the group approached just after 11 p.m., said Sheriff's Deputy Luis Castro.

An argument ensued and one of the men shot Gadlin in the upper torso, Castro said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Back hoe accident kills paving worker

A worker for a Butler County paving company was killed Monday when he was struck in the head by the bucket of a back hoe that was being loaded onto a trailer, a spokesman for the Allegheny County Coroner's Office said.

Douglas A. Wikert, 20, of Sarver, was pronounced dead at the scene after the accident, which occurred at 3:15 p.m. along Way Hollow Road in Edgeworth. Wikert was an employee of Brandt Paving, Inc., of Harmony.

Allegheny County homicide detectives are trying to determine how the accident occurred.

Michigan man dies in accident aboard tugboat

HURON, Ohio - A tugboat crewman was killed yesterday afternoon in an accident aboard his vessel on Lake Erie several miles off shore, the Erie County Sheriff's Office said.

Charles F. Grout II, 32, of Lansing was pronounced dead by rescue personnel when he was brought to a dock at the River's Edge Inn, a hotel and restaurant in Huron.

Mr. Grout apparently injured his head when he was struck by a broken cable while aboard his tugboat, the Kurt Leudtke, which was towing a barge, according to U.S. Coast Guard PO Matthew Schofield.

The barge had been in open water unloading mud, the petty officer said.

Explosive crash kills driver, officer injured

SANTA FE, NM -- A tanker truck hauling thousands of gallons of fuel overturned and exploded on Interstate 25 just south of Santa Fe, killing the driver and forcing the closure of the northbound lanes for hours, authorities said.

Witnesses told police flames from Wednesday's early morning crash rose 100 to 150 feet into the air, according to Peter Olson, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety.

Roger Harris, 46, of Albuquerque died in the accident.

Harris had picked up a load of fuel in Albuquerque about 3 a.m. Wednesday and was headed to Espanola, said Jim Polk of Polk Oil Co. Harris was hauling 7,500 gallons of gasoline and 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

Farmer killed in tractor accident

DOWAGIAC, MI - A 58-year-old man was killed early Wednesday in a farming accident in Cass County. The accident happened at around 3:30 a.m. on School St. in Silver Creek Twp. west of Dowagiac. According to the Cass County Sheriff's Department, 58-year-old Joseph Egger was killed when his tractor overturned and pinned him underneath. It appears the tractor struck an object and then rolled over. The accident remains under investigation.

Hub taxi driver killed in crash that closes Mass. Ave. bridge

Boston, MA -- The Massachusetts Avenue bridge into Cambridge was closed last night after a four-car wreck that killed a Boston taxi driver, police and fire officials said.

Just how the crash happened is still under investigation, but police said a cab driver was stopped on the bridge with car trouble and was outside of his taxi when he was struck about 9:30 p.m.

A green Mazda sedan rolled over, injuring a person inside, a late-model Oldsmobile screeched to a halt behind it and a second taxi driver was injured when his Metrocab company car was hit. But the Top Cab taxi driven by the only person killed appeared untouched. The cabbie's pants and shoes lay in the road, covered in powdered quick-dry that firefighters use to clean up liquid spills. (More here.)

Cotton workers killed in collision

Two men were killed and two others injured about 9:30 a.m. Saturday near Chapman Ranch when a pickup plowed under a semi-tractor cotton module that didn't stop at the crossroads, police said.

The module flipped onto its passenger side and skidded about 55 feet from impact after the collision, and the roof of the 2001 Dodge Ram crushed three cotton harvest workers before peeling off, said Department of Public Safety Trooper Gilbert Villarreal.

The pickup driver, David Austin Gass, 19, and front-seat passenger, Cornelio Peters-Groening, 20, both of Odonnell, died at the scene, Villarreal said. A back-seat passenger, Joseph Michael Martinez, 22, of Paint Rock, was taken by HALO-Flight to Christus Spohn Hospital Memorial and is in critical condition with head trauma, according to reports

Worker Dies Stuck in Cobb County Manhole

POWDER SPRINGS, GA -- A 43-year-old construction worker has died after being overcome by gas fumes in a manhole in Cobb County. Police say the victim, who has not been identified, was working at a subdivision in Powder Springs yesterday when he climbed down the nine-foot-deep manhole. Investigators also say he may have fallen into the manhole accidentally.

DHL Delivery Driver Killed After Truck Flips

A delivery driver died Thursday night when his truck blew a tire and flipped onto its side. Troopers said Robert Baysinger wasn't wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the DHL delivery truck then hit by a car.

The incident took place just after 6 p.m. on Southbound I-75 at the ramp to Cincinnati-Dayton Road.

A CareFlight medical helicopter rushed Baysinger to the hospital, but doctors couldn't save him.

Worker Falls Into Vat Of Molten Lead

WALLKILL, N.Y. A worker was killed when he fell into a vat of molten lead at an Orange County company. State Police say 24-year-old Jose Sartillo of Middletown worked at the Revere Smelting and Refining Corporation in Wallkill. Police say Sartillo was working near the smelting kettle when he fell in at about one a-m yesterday and was severely burned over his entire body. Orange County Coroner Tom Murray says death was probably instantaneous. He says the lead was nine thousand degrees Fahrenheit. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating how Sartillo fell into the vat.

Bluffs worker killed under train

A Council Bluffs man died Thursday, after the locomotive he was working on rolled backward.

The Council Bluffs Police Department was notified of an accident at 11:30 a.m. at Alter Trading Corp., 2603 Ninth Ave. When officers arrived on the scene, they learned that Lynn Knauss, 55, an employee of Alter's, was working underneath a locomotive when it began to roll backward.

Knauss became pinned between the undercarriage of the locomotive and an object described as a 250-pound rubber slab used between railroad tracks at intersections. Knauss was pronounced dead at the scene.

Essex County deputy killed by truck during traffic stop

MORIAH, N.Y.--n Essex County sheriff's deputy was killed early Wednesday when he was hit by a tractor-trailer while standing along the Adirondack Northway during a traffic stop.

Deputy Eric Loiselle, 31, had stopped a vehicle for speeding in the northbound lanes of Interstate 87 just before 1 a.m. when a truck driven by Jacek Bujalski of Quebec drove off the road and onto the shoulder, state police said.

Loiselle tried to avoid the truck by leaping over the hood of the vehicle he had pulled over, but was struck and killed, according to police. After hitting Loiselle, the truck slammed into the vehicle the deputy had stopped, slightly injuring its driver, Jonathan Roy of Quebec.

Ala. Gas Station Owner Killed During Theft

FORT PAYNE, Ala.-- A gas station owner was run over and killed when he tried to stop a driver from leaving without paying for $52 worth of gasoline, police said.

The driver had not been apprehended Sunday, and police Chief David Walker said the case was being investigated as a robbery-homicide.

Witnesses told police that Husain Caddi, owner of Fort Payne Texaco, "grabbed onto the vehicle" Friday when the driver began to drive off.

Caddi was dragged across the parking lot and onto a highway, where he fell to the pavement and was run over by the late model sport utility vehicle's rear wheel, Walker said.

"Other vehicles were leaving the station's lot and there was a great deal of traffic on the roadway near the station at the time," Walker said. Caddi, 54, later died at a hospital, Walker said.

Construction worker dies after fall from Kilgore shell building

Kilgore, TX- A construction worker was killed Tuesday when he fell from the roof of a shell building at Kilgore's Synergy Park. Sgt. Ron England with the Kilgore Police Department said the 28½-foot fatal fall was the second accident within a week at the 80,000-square-foot structure being built by the Kilgore Economic Development Corp. Martin Alfonso Torres, 53, an immigrant from Mexico who worked for H&H Coating of Kilgore was pronounced dead at Laird Memorial Hospital shortly after noon Tuesday.

Worker crushed to death, another injured at Port Everglades

Port Everglades, FL -- A heavy machine that loads propane tanks onto barges broke loose Thursday morning, crushing to death a man servicing it and injuring another. Timothy Murphy, 37, was showing his apprentice, Marshall Bowles, 30, how to change a seal on the machine for the Dynegy company about 10:30 a.m. at Berth 11, said Veda Coleman-Wright, spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office. During the maintenance, a 15-foot lifting arm weighing about a ton came loose and crushed Bowles, said Capt. Dave Erdman, spokesman for Broward County Fire Rescue. Murphy, who was knocked aside and slightly injured, was treated and released from Broward General Medical Center.

New Jersey Firefighter Killed by Suspected Drunk Driver

Keansburg, NJ -- A Keansburg, New Jersey firefighter was struck and killed Wednesday by a suspected drunk driver while directing traffic at the scene of a hazardous materials incident, officials said.

Joseph F. Walsh, age 76, served the Keansburg Fire Department for 54 years, said Capt. Albert Scott.

The department had responded to a minor hazardous materials incident at Keansburg High School, where Walsh was acting as a fire police officer.

"He was standing at the entrance to the high school and he was getting the vehicles out of the parking lot," Scott said. "While he was directing the traffic on Port Monmouth Road, a suspected drunk driver hit him and continued to flee the scene."

Cow tramples man to death

CHRISTOVAL, Texas -- A 72-year-old Central Texas ranch foreman was trampled to death by a cow while he was feeding some cattle Wednesday morning, authorities said.

The cow inflicted severe injuries to Eugene Barber's chest, said Russell Smith, Tom Green County justice of the peace.

"It's not uncommon," Smith said of the incident. "Once in a while you have a cow that is cantankerous." The cow turned on Barber as he was feeding it, then it bowled him over, said ranch owner Mary Lee Butts. "She just mauled him," Butts, who witnessed the attack, said in a story in Thursday's San Angelo Standard-Times.

Two ambulance workers killed in train collision

FALKVILLE, Ala. — An ambulance collided with a train in north Alabama Thursday, killing two ambulance workers. State troopers said the vehicle from American Ambulance Service in Hartselle was responding to a non-life-threatening call when the collision occurred on U.S. 31 about 10:30 a.m. The impact flipped the ambulance into a ditch. A male ambulance worker died at the scene, and a female worker died later at a hospital, troopers said. Their names were not immediately released.

Arrest made in death of cab driver

CASPER, Wyo. -- Police have arrested a man in connection with the shooting death of a cab driver.

Keith Jordan Booth, 18, of Casper, is in custody on suspicion of committing aggravated robbery and homicide in the commission of a robbery. The latter charge is treated as a first-degree murder and is punishable in Wyoming by the death penalty in certain cases.

Police found Gregory Clarkson, 25, a new employee of R.C. Cab Co., dead behind the wheel of his cab shortly after 6:30 a.m. Thursday. He had been shot in the chest, according to police. The vehicle's engine was still running when investigators arrived at the crime scene.

Booth was arrested Friday. He is expected to make an initial court appearance on Monday.

Two roofers killed by lightning strike in Fort Myers

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Lightning from a fast-moving thunderstorm struck and killed two roofers atop a town house as they were preparing to leave for the day, officials said.

Carlos B. Guillen, 28, and Gaspar Garcia, 20, were pronounced dead at the scene Thursday afternoon, officials said.

They were the second and third fatalities from lightning strikes in Lee County this year. A 39-year-old man died when he was struck by lightning on a Bonita Springs golf course in April.


Schroeppel, PA -- A Hannibal man was critically injured early Tuesday when his sport utility vehicle crashed head-on into a tractor-trailer in Schroeppel, killing the driver, state police said.

Robert M. Collins, 49, of 1435 Gifford Road, was driving his 1998 Ford Explorer northwest on county Route 57 about 3:15 a.m. when he drifted into the oncoming lane, state police said. His vehicle slammed into the tractor-trailer, which overturned and caught fire.

The truck driver, Robert Bond, 58, of Brodheadsville, Pa., was pronounced dead at the scene, said Investigator Terry Bauer, of the Fulton state police station.

Bond, who worked for Cloverleaf Transportation, had just left the company's Route 46 terminal with a load of bottled beer destined for Jersey City, N.J. He had worked for Cloverleaf more than 20 years, a spokesman said.

Company says helicopter accident kills 2 in Gulf of Mexico

LAFAYETTE, La.-- A helicopter accident in the Gulf of Mexico killed two employees (Bill Dvorak and ?) of Air Logistics, a company that provides transportation to offshore oil and gas platforms, the company said Friday in a news release.

The accident happened Thursday but the company released few details, including the approximate location of the accident in the Gulf.

2 officers shot dead, Motorcyclist held after Southeast Heights manhunt

Albuquerque, NM- A motorcyclist with mental health problems may be at the center of one of the deadliest nights in the history of the Albuquerque Police Department. Detectives this morning were questioning the man, captured less than two hours after two police officers were shot and killed in a Southeast Heights neighborhood near Roosevelt Park, an Albuquerque Police Department spokesman said. An arrest warrant issued this morning identified the policemen as officers M. King and R. Smith. The warrant named John Hyde as the suspect.

N.M. Transportation Worker Found Dead in ABQ

Albuquerque, NM-Police are investigating the death of a New Mexico Department of Transportation employee who was found dead outside a state warehouse. Police said another employee arriving at work Thursday morning discovered the man's body. The man, whose name was not immediately released, suffered injuries to his torso, police said. "We are saddened and shocked by this senseless act of violence that took the life of one of our longtime employees," Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught said in a statement issued Thursday. "Our prayers and thoughts are with the employee's family and friends during this difficult period."

Worker crushed at bridge site

Lansing, IL- Demolition workers will begin cutting through 40-ton iron bridge support beams Saturday in an effort to recover the remains of a construction worker killed Friday on Illinois Highway 394 in Lansing. Daniel Lopez, of Munster, Ind., was trapped when a section of ramp being built to connect the Bishop Ford Expressway to Interstate Highway 80/294 collapsed about 5 p.m., said Mike Claffey, spokesman for the Illinois Department of transportation. Construction workers had spent the week attaching five massive iron girders, each 9 feet high and weighing up to 40 tons, to two large concrete piers of the overpass, said Claffey.


Palm Beach, FL -- For years Maxo Pierre worked with his wife, Marie, to build a family-run grocery business even as he worked part time for others as a landscaper. And he saved his money so that he could buy his own landscaping business.

Only two months after Pierre fulfilled that ambition, his Boynton Beach family was tending to funeral arrangements on Sunday after he was killed on the job.

According to Boca Raton police, Pierre, 49, was cutting grass Saturday morning in a gated community called The Seasons when the riding mower he was driving overturned on the slope to a lake.

Pinned in the water under the machine, Pierre was unconscious when pulled from the water by paramedics and his son Max, who was working away from the lake and was unaware of the accident until the emergency crew arrived. Pierre was pronounced dead at Delray Medical Center.

2 killed, 2 hurt as dump truck strikes building

MIDDLESBORO, Ky. -- Two workers were killed and two were injured yesterday when a truck rolled into a building at a Bell County coal operation. Suzy Bohnert, spokeswoman for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, said the accident occurred at a coal-washing plant owned by the Bell County Coal Corp. about three miles west of Middlesboro. She said a parked dump truck suddenly rolled down a hill and demolished a building. Oliver Beve Gregory, 51, of Pineville, and Donald J. Slusher, 56, of Hinkle, were killed when the 1988 Mack truck slammed into the building, according to state police.

Man Dies In Detroit Trench Collapse-Victim's Father Hospitalized In Temporary Serious Condition

DETROIT, MI -- A 24-year-old man has died after being pulled from a trench that collapsed on him on Detroit's west side. Daniel Howard was buried up to his chest for about six hours after the 1 p.m. accident. Authorities said he had no vital signs for several hours afterward. His father, Ken Howard, was removed from the trench shortly after the accident. He's hospitalized Friday night in temporary serious condition.

The men reportedly were replacing a sewer line in a trench about 8 to 10 feet deep. A homeowner said her basement had flooded and she called the private contractors for repairs, WDIV reported.

Farmer dies after truck rolls in pond

Mobile, AL- A farm accident apparently contributed to the death of a Powell man Thursday. Waylon Hunter, 67 of Powell, died Thursday afternoon after apparently suffering a heart attack after the quarter-ton dump truck he had been operating rolled over into a pond. The accident happened around 10:30 a.m. at Hunter’s farm on county road 158, according to Powell Police Chief Charles Centers.

Heat May Have Played A Role In Death

ARDMORE, Okla. -- State and federal investigators don't know what caused the death of an employee at an Ardmore warehouse, but heat may be a factor.

The man, whose name and hometown weren't released, worked at the Dollar General Corp. distribution center but was an employee of a temporary agency contracted by Dollar General.

The 43-year-old was taken to Mercy Memorial Health Center, where he died Aug. 13.

The cause and manner of death are pending, and a possible connection to heat hasn't been ruled out, said Kevin Rowland, chief investigator for the state medical examiner. Toxicology tests are being done.

Worker dies in 10-story plunge at Phoenix Civic Plaza

PHOENIX, AZ - An ironworker at the Phoenix Civic Plaza construction site plunged more than 100 feet to his death Monday, prompting officials to halt work for the day. Authorities did not release the worker's name.(The worker's name was Peter Joseph Martinez of Florence) Details about the late morning accident were hard to come by Monday. Phoenix public information officials referred all media calls to Hunt-Russell-Alvarado, the company managing the $600 million city project. And Hunt officials declined to talk about the circumstances under which the worker fell - including whether he was wearing a safety harness - and said only that there was an incident that resulted in a "tragic loss of life." (More here.)

Roof collapse kills worker

JOLIVUE, VA — A roof collapse of a building under construction at the Victory Worship Center on Hammond Lane left a North Carolina man dead and two injured Monday night. The Augusta County Sheriff's office cannot release the name of the deceased until his family has been notified. Five men were at the site putting up trusses on a new sanctuary for the center when a set of between 35 and 40 trusses collapsed, striking three men. One man was hit in the head and killed, and the two others were injured, said Augusta County Fire Capt. Alivin Mace.

Motive sought in slayings of Wal-Mart workers

Glendale, AZ -- A northwest Valley man seething with anger turned a Wal-Mart Supercenter parking lot into a shooting gallery Tuesday, police said, leaving two store employees dead and investigators stumped for a motive.

"He just went crazy," said Chuck O'Leary, 26, of Peoria, whose wife, Kara, 28, witnessed part of the mayhem as she walked into the store shortly after 1 p.m. "She said the guy just went ballistic and starting firing off shots."

The suspect, identified by police as Ed Liu, 53, was tracked to a nearby retirement community and arrested a few hours later.

Dead at the scene of the fusillade were Anthony Spangler, 18, and Patrick Graham, 36. Both Glendale men were collecting grocery carts in the parking lot near 83rd Avenue and Union Hills Drive when, according to police, Liu drove into the parking lot and angrily pumped them full of bullets without any known motive. Witnesses said one of the men appeared to have tried to crawl under a car for protection before being shot.

West Contra Costa School District employee dies in shooting

RICHMOND, Calif. - Richmond police say a school district employee was shot and killed after he tried to stop a teenage boy from beating up his pregnant girlfriend. Investigators say Terence Martin died yesterday after the 17-year-old he was trying to stop from beating the girl, pulled out a handgun and shot him. The 40-year-old Martin was an employee of the West Contra Costa School District. Police say he died late yesterday afternoon at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek.

Worker dies in fall down elevator shaft

MARYVILLE, Tenn. - Authorities in Maryville say a construction worker fell to his death down an elevator shaft. The man was part of a crew installing an elevator at Blount (BLUHNT') Memorial Hospital when he fell several floors, then a heavy pulley fell onto him. The worker was brought to the hospital's emergency room, then transferred to the University of Tennessee Medical Center, where he died. The victim's name wasn't immediately released after the accident yesterday.

Worker dies after fall from old Charleston bridge

CHARLESTON, S.C. - A worker helping to demolish an old bridge across the Cooper River died from injuries sustained in a fall when part of the structure collapsed, the Charleston County coroner's office said Wednesday. Chris Wareham, 28, of New Hampshire died Tuesday when he fell along with part of the Silas N. Pearman Bridge that is being dismantled, said chief deputy coroner Rae Wooten.

Truck driver killed in fiery three-vehicle wreck

DECATUR, Ala.--Authorities have not been able to identify a truck driver who was killed in a three-vehicle wreck that went ablaze on Alabama 20.

Morgan County authorities said the man, who was pronounced dead at 9:40 p.m. Monday, was severely burned and hope to identify him through medical or dental records.

The other two drivers survived.

According to witness reports, the unidentified driver was driving an eastbound red truck owned by U.S. Xpress Leasing Inc. of Oklahoma City, Okla., which veered into the oncoming lane and skidded, colliding with a westbound white truck.

Wellman Inc. worker dies after being electrocuted

Johnsonville, SC- A Coward resident died Tuesday morning after he was electrocuted at his job at Wellman Inc. in Johnsonville. Waymond Roger Haselden, 56, of Old Georgetown Road died just after midnight, Florence County Coroner M.G. "Bubba" Matthews said. EMS personnel responded to a call at Wellman about 10:10 p.m. Monday night and took Haselden to a local hospital, where they continued life-saving measures, Matthews said.

Woman crushed to death in worksite accident

Oceanside, NY- A Whitestone woman died after being crushed under the massive tires of a 15-ton construction machine outside the counseling center where she worked in Oceanside, Nassau police said Tuesday. Lauren Ludwig, 53, assistant director of the South Nassau Communities Hospital Counseling Center, was accidentally struck by the orange front-end loader about 11:30 a.m. Monday, police said.

Man killed setting up at State Fair

Aubrun, NY- A worker setting up for the New York State Fair was killed Tuesday when a ride he was helping set up fell and crushed him. State police in North Syracuse said Eric M. Frigin, 29, of Orlando, Fla., was assisting with setting up The Enterprise ride on the west end of the midway at about 3 p.m. when he crawled under the ride to place wooden blocks to stabilize it. The ride shifted and slipped off the stabilizing blocks, onto Frigin's chest. He was transported to Upstate Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The State Police and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are continuing their investigations. Frigin was an employee of the James E Strates Shows.

Worker Dies from Heat-Related Illness

Auburn, GA- Lee County Coroner Bill Harris says a heat-related illness is blamed in the death of a Georgia man who collapsed at a rock quarry near Auburn. 32-year-old Stephen Eric Horne of Gray, Georgia, told co-workers Wednesday morning that he wasn't feeling well after working all night. He was found unconscious a short time later.

Grain elevator worker dies in train accident

UNION CITY, Tenn. A grain company worker in Union City was killed when he fell from a rail car and was run over by its wheels. Forty-three-year-old Jose Luis Molina of Union City died in the accident Tuesday when he fell as the rail car was being moved with a front-end loader by fellow employees of Union City Grain Company. He was pronounced dead at the scene.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Live Like Slaves -- Part III (Public Employees Threaten Democracy)

I know I shouldn't let the Wall St. Journal get to me. They just write these stupid articles to make me mad.

This article hearkens back to those thrilling days of yesteryear when men were men and public employees were public servants in the truest sense of the word. Today's contribution to turning-back-the-clock comes courtesy of Terry Moe of the Hoover Institution, who, writing in today's Wall St. Journal, portrays evil public employee unions as powerful, anti-democratic, opposed to the public interest, and just plain bad for America.

Public Employees are Too Powerful:
No other interest groups can match their potent combination of money, manpower, and geographic dispersion. Ask Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has proposed reforms (of public employee pensions, of teacher tenure) that California's public sector unions fiercely oppose. And they have responded with onslaughts of negative ads, combined with noisy demonstrations at his public appearances, that have caused his popularity to plummet from stratospheric highs to abysmal lows.
And this is a bad thing? Actually, I think he gives public employees much too much credit. Arnold has managed to alienate almost everyone in California. After all, brining his approval rating a down to 34% -- down 31 points from this time last year -- is even more than powerful public employee unions can pull off.

The troubling thing is that the only initiative on the Governator's special election this coming November that is winning is the "Paycheck Protection Deception" which would curb the ability of public employee unions to use members' dues for political campaigns. The initiative currently has the support of 58% of likely voters.

Public Employees are Enemies of the People:
On the surface, these unions may come across as a benign presence in our midst. After all, they represent teachers, nurses, and other government employees who perform services that are valuable, sometimes indispensable, to all of us. What's good for them would seem to be good for us -- right? The problem, however, is that this is not even close to being right. What's good for them is sometimes quite bad for us.
Say again? What's good for public employees is quite bad for "us?" Let's put aside for a minute the question of who "us" is. Good for public employees would be...decent pay, safe working conditions, good health care plans, secure pensions, treated with respect at work, consulted during reorganizations....

OK, I'm a bit biased, having worked for AFSCME, the largest public employee union for 16 years. I ran the health and safety program, which means I was quite knowledgable about what public employees actually do every day. And most of it ain't pretty (nor is it well paying, especially where there's no union): wading through raw sewage in sewers and wastewater treatment plants, taking care of our mentally ill in understaffed, underequipped overcrowded institutions, watching over our society's most dangerous individuals in understaffed, overcrowded prisons, dealing with angry social service clients in understaffed, underfunded agencies, dealing with abused children or inspecting housing in neighborhoods that the police won't even go into, taking care of this society's poorest, sickest populations in understaffed, overcrowded public hospitals, and I could (and often do) go on and on and on....

In return, they don't have collective bargaining rights in over half the states, and even in those states only by state law or executive order that can be rescinded at any moment. Public employees in over half the states don't even have a legal right to a safe workplace. A public employee in Ohio or Massachusetts gets killed in a 25 foot trench collapse and it's "Dig him out and get back to work." End of story. Unions aren't just important for public employees, they're often a matter of life and death.

So why is treating them like real people instead of second class citizens bad for "us?" Where does society not benefit from decent treatment of those who do the jobs that this great society needs to function?

Public Employee Unions Are Enemies of Democracy:
At the heart of this problem is a genuine dilemma of democratic government: As governments hire employees to perform public services, the employees inevitably have their own distinctive interests. They have interests in job security and material benefits, in higher levels of public spending and taxing, and in work rules that restrict the prerogatives of management. They also have interests in preventing governmental reforms that might threaten their jobs. To the extent public employees have political power, therefore, they will use it to promote their own job-related interests -- which are not the same as, and may easily conflict with, what is good for the public as a whole.
How dare they be interested in jobs security and material benefits! How selfish can you get? Why can't they just accept their lot in life and assume the position? Interested in "reforms" that might threaten their jobs? What do they think? They have some right to try to keep their jobs?

Their interests may conflict with "what is good for the public as a whole". I guess "good for the public as a whole" is making sure we have a underclass to perform all of those unpleasant jobs that we can't do without and would rather not pay too much for (especially if it means more of the "T-word.") And they whine so much when we allow them to have unions.

The fact is that any time state or local governments are reorganized, it alway works out better when the front line employees are involved -- in an organized fashion. Not that it's appreciated. The irony here is that the state where public employee unions worked best with management to reorganize government most effectively and (relatively) painlessly was Indiana, which then elected Mitch Daniels as governor, who immediately eliminated collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Teachers are bad for children:
Because of union power, it is no accident that removing low-performing teachers from the classroom is virtually impossible, even though this nation has been trying to improve the public schools for decades.
Yeah, take a look around our inner city schools and tell me that teachers are the problem.

Public Employee unions are a bunch of commies:
Nor is it an accident that police officers in San Francisco may retire in their 50s and receive retirement pay equal to 90% of their final salaries for the rest of their lives, when most workers have no employer-provided retirement benefits at all.
It would really be much better for "us" if we just shot them all when they're too old to work.

The solution? Castration:
There is no way to eliminate the conflict of interest between government employees and the public at large. So the solution must focus on weakening the power of public sector unions. A Catch-22 quickly emerges here, because the unions will use all their existing power to defeat any attempts to take it away. Yet for reformers there is no alternative but to try -- by pursuing legislation that prohibits collective bargaining by government workers, for example, and pressuring for "paycheck protection" laws that require unions to get their members' permission before spending dues money on politics.

Success will not come easily, if at all. But for those who believe that democracy should represent the public interest, the fight is a good and noble one. It needs to be fought.
Paging Jerry McEntee and Ed McElroy. Your rooms at the Guantanamo Hilton are ready for check-in.

Related Articles

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Will BP Execs Go To Jail?

The Houston Chronicle reports that the US Department of Justice is looking into whether to file criminal charges against BP Amoco in response to the March 23 explosion that killed 15 workers and injured more than 170.

The US Chemical Safety Board has found that that key alarms and a level transmitter failed to operate properly and to warn operators of unsafe and abnormal conditions within critical plant equipment. Highly flammable hydrocarbons had escaped from the tower into the blowdown drums where they overflowed and ignited, causing the explosion, but the indicators and alarms that should have warned the workers were not functioning properly.In addition, BP admitted that it knew the blowdown drums weren't safe and had bypassed numerous opportunities to replace them with safer flare systems.

BP was also aware of malfunctioning pumps, indicators and alarms that caused the problem.New findings announced last week included evidence that BP had known since at least two weeks before the March 23 incident that the alarms and transmitters weren’t functioning and that a critical pressure-control valve did not function in pre-startup equipment checks. The CSB also revealed in the preamble of the recommendation that BP had been having problems with the process for five years before the explosion.

Based on the report, Tom Sansonetti, former U.S. assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources, predicted that investigators for both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency would refer the case to the Department of Justice. He said the case would likely be handled by lawyers who work for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, or ENRD, which Sansonetti ran until he returned to private practice in April.

A referral does not mean that charges will necessarily be filed. Justice Department lawyers are likely to focus on how much BP officials knew about the problems with the unit before it exploded.

"Sounds to me like the folks back at my old Justice Department shop will be kept quite busy on this one," said Sansonetti, an attorney who also has served as solicitor of the Department of the Interior and is now a partner in the Holland & Hart law firm in Wyoming.

The Chronicle reports that it is unlikely that OSHA will be able to bring criminal prosecutions because the law limits the agency to criminal charges that result from willful violations that lead to the death of an employee. Although there may be evidence that BP’s violations were willful, all of the workers killed worked for contractors and not directly for BP.

It may be possible, on the other hand, to prosecute under the Clean Air Act (CAA), which has much stronger penalties. The CAA states that a person “negligently places another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury” can be sentenced to one year in jail, and a person who who at the time knowingly places another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury can serve up to 15 years in jail.

The Chronicle notes that the CAA could be used because “the March 23 explosion also resulted in the release to the air of more than 19,000 pounds of hexane, among other toxic substances, according to a report filed by BP to the Texas Department of Environmental Quality. Hexane is one of the pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act.”

Last February, the Justice Department and EPA brought charges against WR Grace for attempting to hide the fact that asbestos was present in vermiculite products at the company’s Libby, Montana plant. In addition, OSHA, EPA and the Justice Department have been working together recently to look at the possibility of criminal charges in a number of other cases.

The Chronicle also notes that the Justice Department files charges against a Motiva refinery resulting from a 2001 explosion that killed a worker
In one high-profile case, the Justice Department announced in March a $10 million criminal fine against Motiva Enterprises, an oil refining and retail business owned by Shell Oil Co. and Saudi Refining, which is based in Houston. Eventually, Motiva officials pleaded guilty to negligently endangering workers and to knowingly discharging pollutants into the air and water in connection with a fatal explosion at a Delaware refinery in 2001.

In that case, investigations by various regulatory agencies as well as by a homicide detective from the Delaware State Police determined Motiva managers did not heed ample warnings about the tank, which exploded July 17, 2001.
OSHA’s report on the BP explosion and proposed penalties must be issued before September 23. The Chemical Safety Board, which is working on a comprehensive investigation of the incident, will probably not release a report for another year. The CSB, however, has no power to levy penalties, although it has recommended that BP Amoco set up an independent panel to investigate problems with the corporate safety culture and management safety systems behind the March 23 and other incidents at BP refineries in the U.S.

Related Stories